Culture And Reading Comprehension English Language Essay

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In reading a foreign  language text, we extract three levels of meaning: lexical meaning, structural or grammatical meaning, and sociocultural meaning (Fries, 1963). For lexical or grammatical meanings students may turn to a dictionary or grammar textbook. It is a sociocultural meaning that is the most difficult for a second language learner to penetrote for it involves the values, beliefs, and attitudes of the speech community. Reading is a complex skill. It is not simply a decoding operation. It is not enough for students merely to decipher the surface meaning of the text. Teaching a foreign language therefore forms a serious problem, especially in a country where cultural prejudices are great. The success of a second language program, therefore, depends on reducing the culture bondage of a student and motivating him to understand the culture of the target language.

One of the objectives of foreign language teaching is to promote international understanding' and cooperation by enabling students to gain access to the life and thought of people who speak another language. This objective becomes unrealistic when there is hostility towards the culture of another group. The study of a foreign language not only enables an individual to develop his cultural understanding of that language; but also promotes his personal culture through contact with great minds and literature. For culture! is often defined as that training which tends to develop the higher faculties, the imagination, the sense of beauty and intellectual comprehension.

 Many linguistics have questioned the usefulness of nonculture baund reading materials in foreign language teaching. Texts are designed on a theme familiar to the students and reflecting their own culture. This destroys the unity of language, severing it from it's social context. Language and culture are inseparable, the one cannot by learned without the other. No two languages represent the some social reality. Even the most familiar objects, such as food and house-hold items, have different connotations in two languages.



3.1. Relation of Language to Culture

In the early 1950's linguists and anthropologists developed a great interest in the relation of language and culture and they come to recognise that they are two related phenomena. Culture has different meanings in different fields of study. By anthropoholigsts it might be defined as life styles of population (Oswalt 1970, 15 in Chastain 1976, 388).

This definition of culture is the one which is most commonly taken as the basis for selecting cultural content for the foreign or second language classes. Chastain (1776, 388) indicate that this definition encomposses the types of information the types of information that would seem to be of most interest and most important to the typical student enrolled in a second language class. Ideally, at the end of their studies the students will have a functional knowledge of the second culture system just as they have one of the second language system. Taking this view point into consideration, the EFL teacher should be aware of the fact that the learner needs to gain insight into the foreign language. Relatedly, the teacher needs to clarify the learners' own cultural behaviour in a particular situation for a comparative study.

Becker (1972) defines culture as "the problem of collective action of how people manage to act together". He adds that "culture is shared understanding'". This shared understanding enables people to act collectively because they have shared ideas about how a certain activity might be carried on in certain situations. Becker (1982, 518) states that the culture process consists of people doing something in line with their understanding of what one might best do under the given circumstances. Others, recognising what was done as appropriate, will then consult their notions of what might be done and do something that seems right to them, to which others in return will respond similarly.

Hall (1959 in Nababan 1974) sees culture as "a complex message system by which the members of the community exchanges messages". The sharing of one culture makes, the members of the community capable of understanding one another, makes one know what other members expect and what to do in order to make one's wishes, feelings and attitudes known the other members of the group. Therefore, culture can be said to be the "medium of the flow of information'" as Nabadan (1974) puts it. Not only among the contemporary members of the group but also between generations of the society.

From this discussion we can see how important culture, in the same way, they have a language which enables them to communicate. Therefore, culture and language are very much related. This is pointed out by Nababan (1974, 14) who indicate that one of the most obvious relations of language to culture is that of part to whole. Language qualifies as an element or subsystem of culture in all the definitions and aspects of culture; it is the central part of it and is involved in particularly all the other parts of culture. After stating the definitions of culture and the relation of language to culture, Nababan concludes that "the foreign language teachers should know enough about the foreign culture, including kinesics and paralanguage to give their students an adequate ability in cross cultural communication, i.e. understanding and using the foreign language properly".